Passing the bar today, there was a memory of a moment there five years ago, a moment that recalled a scene in the film “Educating Rita”. It was the moment when Rita suddenly realizes that there must be a different way of living. Family and friends are gathered in a pub singing along with a song and Rita looks around at the assembled faces and thinks that another world must be possible.
Sitting on a barstool in that apres-ski bar at the end of the week, there was a “Rita” moment. The bar is octagonal and it was fascinating to watch the faces of those who sat across. The old country and western song “Country Roads” was played in some electronic form and people, who had previously demonstrated no awareness of the music being played, suddenly burst into song.
A group of morose looking young men became almost animated as they joined in the words. Where would they be on Monday morning? Would the young man wearing a hat with cat’s ears be as flamboyant in his Monday to Friday life? As they sat and drank their sequences of beer and exotic cocktails, what went through their mind?
Across the bar, a grey haired man with a similarly aged companion raised his face to the ceiling as he sang out “Take me home”. What did he do for a living? What office door would he go through at the start of the working week?
A twenty-something young woman with long black curls danced with a friend, long cocktail glasses in their hands. Where had they come from and where would they be going as the got into a car or boarded a plane the next day?
The single bond that held together that diverse gathering of people, who would ordinarily never have contemplated joining in the words of a country and western song, was a mood of melancholy. Their week of escape was over and the reality they contemplated seemed to leave them unhappy.
Looking around the bar that evening, it was a gathering of citizens of some of the richest nations in the world, yet the abundant wealth that had brought them to this resort and to that bar seemed not to have brought a vision of contentment.
What would Rita have made of the faces around the bar, had she sat looking around those gathered? Would there have been a thought that there must be some way of organizing the world, and of living individual lives, where people felt happy with their lot? Should living comfortable, middle class lives not leave people as happy at the end of week away as they were at the beginning?
Perhaps our economic system depends upon a permanent state of discontentment. Perhaps demand for many of the goods we buy depends upon a constant striving for more and bigger and newer and costlier possessions in the vain hope that having such things will make us happy.
Rita found a different way of living through her Open University course. It was hard to imagine what might have transformed the mood in that bar, save telling all of them that they could stay for another week.